Dayton Drugovich / Correspondent
Getting back to more of New Zealand, my latest adventure was a trip down to Milford Sound. Fiordland National Park is about a four hour drive outside of Queenstown, on the south-western part of the South Island, and within the park is Milford Sound. This was actually one of the first trips I made while in the South Island. It is rated as one of New Zealand’s top tourist destinations and just like everything else in this country, it is simply astounding.
There are tour buses that leave from the city centre of Queenstown but I would recommend renting a car and doing the drive yourself. As it was a long drive, I decided to get an early start on the day, and left early in the morning. It is a bit of a pain because you have to drive a giant “U” starting in Queenstown, driving on the one side, and ending in Milford with the only town being Te Anau at about the half-way point, which is a good lunch and dinner stop. After passing Te Anau, you enter the park which has great views of snowcapped mountains and huge grassy open fields.
The benefit of having the rental car allows you to stop along the way and the visit the many side stops that are dotted along the road leading to Milford. There are several points along the road where you go straight through a forest and it seems like every week crews have to come by and cut back the growth before it swallows the road. The group I was with were a bit adventurous and like me, enjoyed forging a new path. In one of the forested parts, we pulled off and trekked our way through until it opened up onto a stone beach and a lake, perhaps the best and most peaceful place I’ve ever been. To try and describe it would be futile but it had everything required for me: clapping of the water and the rocks, birds singing in the distance, and most importantly, it was completely desolate. After what seemed to be too short of stay it was back on the road to see what we initially came for. For the last few miles, the roads begin to climb as you continue your way through avalanche prone valleys until you come to Homer Tunnel, which deposits you on the other side into Milford.
My description doesn’t even begin to do justice to what it was really like to visit. Even though it is one of the most popular destinations in New Zealand, it doesn’t seem like it. There are places that can be awe inspiring but still very noticeably commercialized or obvious tourist areas, like Niagara Falls or possibly the Grand Canyon. Milford Sound is not like that. The fact that a place like this is accessible and unspoiled, to me says a lot about New Zealand and it is something I love about this country.